When the draw was made for Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualifying group it was not long before we knew it’d be a trip to Dusseldorf for the Boys in Green and the Esprit Arena the stage for a new Great Escape.
Why was Dusseldorf chosen? Market knowledge and intelligence. Aer Lingus has a direct service there, while Ryanair goes into the Weeze airport (also in Germany) and Cologne.
For ease of access and getting the ticketing right, Dusseldorf was one of three venues looked at and quickly decided upon. Fans could book in advance, look for bargains, plan and budget accordingly – cost benefit. Match packages could be sold, competitions to win the same run off and Irish clubs could use the FAI allocation system to raise funds. It is win-win all round, even if it was just a draw.
The World Champions face the Asian champions in Kaiserslautern next month in what should be a good workout for the home side. Australia will be looking to keep their momentum going and tickets are moving well with a big pool of ex-pat Aussies a short hop away in the UK.
Germany’s next two home matches are in Cologne’s excellent RheinEnergie Stadium (vs USA) and my beloved Waldstadion (now Commerzbank Arena) in Frankfurt (vs Poland), June and September respectively. For both there are clear instructions and lines of communication on ticketing and how to get there. Simple.
It is the same for the Croatian Football Union, who are never out of crisis, and almost all Associations, Federations or Unions. The matches are agreed, the dates and venues announced and tickets go on sale or are scheduled for the same. Friendlies are used to boost the coffers with an eye on future tourism. It’s not quite so in Russia.
Last year I formally took on a project with a business turn around. Key aspects were marketing and communications, with events and PR thrown in. Once I put a strategy and plan in place, I explained that music and sports were key, and that we needed to focus on the latter right away.
Following a massively successful World Ice Hockey Championships we moved onto Brazil and bucking the global trend. We marketed each game as an event and the locals came out in force.
Two competitions were run in tandem – a “Guess the Final Four” and a scratch card. The former was to run until the final group game. The scratch card was given to customers who spent x amount, bought x, y or z and the prize could be an immediate 1,000rbs, with all scratch card holders eligible to enter a draw for prizes in August. The main prizes were tickets to Russian National Team matches in the autumn.
It was happy days and customers were motivated and pumped. With the “Final Four” wrapped up, coupons all accounted for and safe, I headed off for a welcome holiday. Sure we couldn’t find out where the matches would be in Russia, but knew that in July it’d be clear.
A day didn’t pass without an SOS message from Voronezh, even on a bus from Vienna to Bratislava I was cursing wi-fi availability. Despite being given the list of games with times and importance to each Director, Manager, Outlet and to the Brand and Events Managers in May and updating daily during the tournament, they were closing up early on nights when Russia played!
Turning away guests because they didn’t know if we were broadcasting matches and so on. It got worse. Upon my return I found that the prize for the scratch cards had morphed into trips to a music festival that nobody wanted to visit. I dealt with that and went looking for tickets to watch Russia play. It was a two part tragi-comic disaster effort.
Part 1 – Check tickets for September 8th match vs Liechtenstein in Arena Khimki. Not on sale online. Call, email and visit Arena Khimki and RFS – no response or no information. Prize winners calling daily for updates (need to book travel to Moscow etc).
Friendly with Azerbaijan is announced for September 3rd, no tickets available. Both matches played out in front of near empty little stadium on the congested outskirts of Moscow, but near Ikea. Turn focus to 12th October Moldova match which has been scheduled for St. Petersburg, as per RFS site.
Part 2 – Begin ticket chase – accused of not speaking good enough Russian by our Director (despite dealing with RFS workers in English), calls then made by native colleague, result was even worse. Match suddenly switched to the Otkrytie Arena in Moscow.
Tickets online, expensive and with match on a Sunday it means losing a day’s work on Monday. Buy the tickets, distribute them and winners relatively happy.
There is a Part 3 to this, on Friday (6th February), four friends from Austria asked me to check into tickets for the match in June, however nobody knows where it will be. The September game with Sweden will almost certainly be in St. Petersburg, though who knows as the venue for the final qualification game with Montenegro is also T.B.D..
Within the RFS is enough talent and ability to make bucketloads of money from very simple things. The same goes for almost all clubs in the Russian professional game. Yet it has always been so with the RFS, and depressingly, under the current President it is miles better than previously!
Of course the World Cup in 2018 will run well, because FIFA will appoint the companies to take care of it. It will be the biggest World Cup yet and show Russia in a great light, despite the British media’s agonised pleas.
However, before and after the carnival of football and general big business love-in, the Russian National team will float along waiting for the next dig out. No friendlies have been announced for 2015! Sponsors have reduced their backing and the RFS sinks further into historical debt and with new debts mounting.
Oligarchs circle like buzzing bluebottles to pick at the rotting carcass of Russian football, positioning themselves as kingmakers and looking for political favour by launching the Presidential campaign for Vitali Mutko. For the staffers in Taganka there is no need to make waves, they’ll just get a new-old boss if they keep quiet.
For anyone brought up in football or sports in Russia, there is no need to go raising funds or taking the initiative, there will always be a dig out from a rich bloke or the government or a company who needs favours. If not, there’s bankruptcy, a new entity and new rich blokes, government funding or companies looking for favours.
The same staffers will take up jobs and the next crisis arrives with even more force and destruction. Without incentive for change there will only be decay. The corpse of Russian football is being picked over and there is very little meat left.